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Headless regulators hit India power sector

According to reports, nine Electricity Regulatory Commissions including the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) are without Chairpersons.

While the Government says this is due to procedural delays, those within the industry blame the policy makers for their lack of seriousness.

The Electricity Distribution Utilities (Discoms) approach the respective Commissions for approval of tariff orders, capital expenditure for the operation of discoms, clarification, if any, on commercial orders and nod for power purchase agreements, among others. And, in instances where Commissions have a single member, the decision making gets delayed causing operational bottlenecks.

The Electricity Act authorises the senior most member on the board of the Commission to take charge whenever the office of the Chairperson is vacant. However, the ground reality is different, say industry officials.

Though the acting-Chairperson of a CERC or State regulator has the power of ‘casting vote’ – to be exercised whenever there is a tie – just like a regular chairman, the problem arises in single-member commissions.

Discoms and power developers face several hurdles when the Commissions delay or do not pass orders when a Chairperson or a respective Member is not in office.

For example, SERCs of Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have one Chairperson and two members. In these States, two out of the three positions are lying vacant.

Another example is of the Nagaland Electricity Regulatory Commission, a single-position bench which is vacant.

A senior Member of the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity said, “A dispute related to a power purchase agreement between a Discom and power producer that needs to be analysed legally cannot be done in the absence of Member Legal of the Commission. This leads to delay in taking decisions.”

In fact, the Appellate has sought a detailed report from the SERCs on the issue.

When the issue was brought to the attention of Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, he said that there was no delay from the Ministry.

The CERC Chairman has been selected and the name has been sent to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.

In August, Gireesh B. Pradhan’s, name was cleared by the Ministry. But he has still not been appointed.

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